Am I small? Är jag liten?

am-i-small-ar-jag-liten-childrens-picture-book-english-swedish-bilingual-editionIt could be entirely predictable for my first post to be a bilingual picture book. If you are a little disappointed by my lack of originality, I can only promise to make it up to you later. Am I small? Är jag liten? is indeed a Swedish/English picture book written by Philipp Winterberg and illustrated by Nadja Wichmann. All text is presented first in Swedish, followed by the English translation in an alternate font. However, this book is available in more than one hundred foreign language editions and more than one thousand bilingual editions in nearly every imaginable world language combination, including German/Indonesian. Pretty impressive, right? It’s a great idea and obviously very marketable. I had my doubts as to whether the story would be compelling and the production decent. I took a chance, and I’m glad I did.

I should be as upfront as possible with you, dear reader. It is not that strong an endorsement for me to say that I cried while reading a book or watching a movie or driving through the hills of Brösarp. The truth is that I am moved to tears frequently and much more often than the average person. However, if I cried the second time? Then we know it’s good. There is my official endorsement for the emotional impact of this particular book. Similar to a five-star rating, Am I small? Är jag liten? gets the two-tear award.

It was a real treat to find such a sweet story arc in twenty-eight pages of very simple and short text. The protagonist, a young girl of about five, is surprised to hear that she is small and sets out to determine if it’s true. She encounters creatures of all sizes, both fantastic and mundane, who can only compare her to themselves. In the end, she comes to a conclusion founded in self-love and self-acceptance. Winterberg does not disappoint and uses the opportunity to encourage reflection around the judgment of ourselves and others, even in very young readers.

Wichmann’s bright and fun illustrations set a terrific backdrop for this story. In addition to the juxtaposition of real and pretend creatures, the illustrator weaves together the mechanical and the natural, like in her drawing of a multi-gadget metal boat attached by a leafy tree trunk to a giant’s red fur. All my favorite motifs are included here: stripes, polka dots, stars, trees, apples, mushrooms, flowers, foxes, monsters, even a German philosophy text collage effect.

Am I small sample2I am always looking for bedtime books that cover the ages of my three children, currently 10, 7, and 4. As you may know, this is no easy feat. Because Wichmann knocks it out of the park with her illustrations, all three kids enjoy discovering new details on the pages. The eldest, who is now learning to read Swedish, takes on the Swedish text. The middle child reads the English translation, and the little guy listens and enjoys. On nights when everyone is already tucked into bed, I read both texts aloud and am not intimidated or stumped by the Swedish words. This is a big one; I usually must defer to my Swedish husband in cases like these, so to be able to read it myself feels empowering and motivating. The repetition and vocabulary centered on nuanced degrees of size (pytteliten, enorm, gigantisk, mikroskopisk) is extremely helpful for Swedish language learners. You may consider this book for your family if you are learning Swedish or if you want to begin to include English in your storytime. You may also want to consider the German/Indonesian version, although I admit I will not be able to help you read that one aloud.

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Am I small? Är jag liten?
Författare: Philipp Winterberg
Illustratör: Nadja Wichmann
Förlag: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2014)
Antal sidor: 28
ISBN: 9781494874865
Köp: Adlibris eller Bokus

Författare: Laura Geiger

I call myself a serial expat because I moved from the USA to Canada to France and now to Sweden. My days of country­ hopping may finally be over, but the experience of immigrating will last for years to come. Maintaining personal identity while negotiating a sense of belonging in a new culture is a tricky process for both kids and adults. The good news is that books help. Children’s books, especially, provide a window into a country’s widely embraced cultural commonality and heritage. Add to that the simplified language and supporting illustrations, and you have a crash course for new Swedes on the shelves of your local library. I am a poet, artist, and enthusiastic supporter of expressive arts. I have worked as an elementary art teacher and as a homeschooling mama to my three children (born in 2004, 2007, and 2010). With an academic background in sociology and interest in second language acquisition, I am eager to share through Barnboksprat how our family is using children’s books to navigate our first steps into this new land of ours.

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